Despite a long and complicated history with gambling, Major League Baseball has partnered with a major entertainment and casino company. Tuesday afternoon MLB announced a multi-year all-inclusive partnership with MGM Resorts and playMGM brands that includes sponsorships and promotions across various media platforms.
MGM has similar deals in place with the NBA and NHL.
“We are pleased to partner with MGM Resorts International, a clear industry leader in the sports gaming area, to work together on bringing innovative experiences to baseball fans and MGM customers,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. “Our partnership with MGM will help us navigate this evolving space responsibly, and we look forward to the fan engagement opportunities ahead.”
“We are excited to enter into this historic partnership with MLB. We are thrilled to create a new one-of-a-kind fan experience for baseball fans,” MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren added. “Combining MGM Resorts’ world class entertainment and technology with MLB data will continue to transform a rapidly changing industry. This partnership further amplifies the significance of our GVC JV, firmly establishing MGM Resorts and playMGM as the market leader in partnerships with major professional sports leagues.”
The partnership was ushered along by a landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in May, which allows states to pass their own sports betting laws. Previously Nevada was the only state with legalized sports gambling. Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia have since legalized sports betting with more states expected to follow suit.
As part of the agreement MGM Resorts will be designated as the first-ever “Official Gaming Partner of MLB” and “Official Entertainment Partner of MLB.” Coincidentally, in two weeks MLB’s annual Winter Meetings will be held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, an MGM Resorts International property.
Here is everything you need to know about MLB’s new partnership with MGM Resorts.
What is MLB getting out of the deal?
Money, presumably lots of it. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but Maury Brown of Forbes reports the deal is “substantial” for MLB. MLB took a hard line against casinos for years and years, decades even, though things started to change within the last year or two, once MLB realized they could make a lot of money out of such an arrangement. Fans have been betting on baseball for as long as the sport existed. Now MLB will get a cut of that gambling money.
What is MGM getting out of the deal?
According to the press release, MGM will “domestically promote its brand and gaming options across MLB’s digital and broadcast platforms, including MLB Network, MLB.com, the MLB At Bat app and additional fan engagement offerings to be jointly developed.” They’re also getting access to some exclusive “enhancing statistics,” which they will then use to set betting lines. MGM will have a presence at MLB Jewel Events, such as the All-Star Game and World Series, and in overseas grassroots events.
What are the players getting out of the deal?
Unclear. Surely it will be something, however. I reckon MLB and the MLB Players Association will broker a deal that puts some of the MGM money directly into the pockets of union members. After all, the players are the game. There’s nothing to bet on without them. It’s only fair that MLBPA members get a piece of the pie.
In fact, the MLBPA released a joint statement with the NHL, NBA, and National Football League players unions back in May saying exactly that. They all want a cut or any gambling money.
“Given the pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), representatives of the MLBPA, NBPA, NFLPA and NHLPA have been working together on the legal, commercial, practical, and human consequences of allowing sports betting to become mainstream. The time has come to address not just who profits from sports gambling, but also the costs. Our unions have been discussing the potential impact of legalized gambling on players’ privacy and publicity rights, the integrity of our games and the volatility on our businesses. Betting on sports may become widely legal, but we cannot allow those who have lobbied the hardest for sports gambling to be the only ones controlling how it would be ushered into our businesses. The athletes must also have a seat at the table to ensure that players’ rights and the integrity of our games are protected.”
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t expire until December 2021, though that does not preclude MLB and the MLBPA from working out an agreement sooner. The two sides are at odds right now and negotiations could be contentious.
What are fans getting out of the deal?
You won’t be able to open the At Bat app on your phone and place a bet, if that’s what you’re wondering. At this point nothing really changes for fans aside from seeing some MLB and MGM cross-promotion. Fans are still bound by the gambling laws of their state and it’ll probably be a while before there are betting establishments in MLB ballparks.
What about the integrity of the game?
Without elaborating, the press release says MLB and MGM will “work together on comprehensive responsible gaming measures and work to protect the integrity of the game both on and off the field.” How will they do that, exactly? It’s unclear. The Black Sox and Pete Rose scandals are significant black marks on MLB history and the league does not want a repeat. Consider this situation “developing.” I suspect we’ll hear plenty more about MLB’s (and MGM’s) plans to protect the integrity of the game.
Does this mean Pete Rose will get into the Hall of Fame?
Nope. There is an enormous difference between MLB getting a cut of the profits from fans betting on baseball, and MLB allowing players and managers — the people who directly impact the outcome of the game — to bet on baseball. MLB personnel are still explicitly prohibited from betting on baseball and that will not change. Rose broke the rules, he knew he was breaking the rules, and he was subsequently banned for life. And remember, Rose agreed to the lifetime ban in exchange for MLB making no formal finding with regards to its investigation. Nothing about MLB’s partnership with MGM changes that. Rose remains banned and ineligible for the Hall of Fame.
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